January 27, 2009

Video: Morgan's health still a concern for Spartans

EAST LANSING - Michigan State coach Tom Izzo has reason to be concerned when his team travels to Iowa City to take on a Hawkeye ballclub that will trot out what amounts to a four-guard line-up.

Iowa's personnel could be problematic for Michigan State as versatile junior Raymar Morgan is still fighting a virus that has limited his production and his minutes. Morgan played 21 minutes at Ohio State last Sunday and Izzo lauded his player's willingness to play under circumstances that would have kept most players out of the game altogether.

"I think Morgan is still an issue," said Izzo. "It is frustrating for him and for us. He is back. He played 21 minutes in the last game and he is getting better but it has been a slow process. I think Suton is back about 90 percent, but Morgan is still, we'll find out a little bit more in practice how much he can do. But I think we realize now how important he is to us."

Michigan State doctors have checked Morgan for a variety of illnesses including mononucleosis, which has been ruled out. What Morgan appears to have is a virus that has taken its toll on athletes from the Michigan State football program and hockey program. It took two to three weeks for athletes from other sports to recover from the virus and it appears the same will be true for Morgan.

Improved production from a number of players could go a long way toward lifting Michigan State up while Morgan continues his recovery. The Spartans received an outstanding individual performance from Durrell Summers at Ohio State. The sophomore wing from Detroit scored a career-high 26 points in a 78-67 win over the Buckeyes. Heading into Thurday's game at Iowa, Michigan State would like to see sophomore wing Chris Allen break out of the mini slump that has dogged him in recent games.

"Mentally, we have to get Chris Allen back on track," explained Izzo. "He has struggled in a couple of games, especially after that shooting performance (at Ohio State). He has worked very hard in the last two day of doing what you can do when you get into a mini-slump and try to work your way out of it. I feel very good about that and maybe where we are heading there."

The biggest challenge that Michigan State will face at Iowa is handling Hawkeye ball screens without picking up unnecessary fouls. An ungodly discrepancy in free throws, were the number one ingredient in Iowa's upset of Michigan State at Carver Hawkeye Arena last year. If Michigan State wants to improve their league-leading 4-0 conference road record, they cannot have a similar free-throw shooting discrepancy this year.

"I saw this year where it against Wisconsin it was 35-10," said Izzo. "They are a team that is aggressive, uses a lot of ball screens and drives to the basket. They can kick out, but they do draw a lot of fouls and they do a good job of that. They are very solid defensively and they are very patient."

Iowa's lone home loss in Big Ten play came against Minnesota. Tubby Smith's team rebounded from a double-digit deficit early to defeat Iowa 52-49.

"It has been a tough place to play," said Izzo. "We are going to have to defend their ball screens."

Iowa is 12-8 overall and 2-5 in Big Ten play entering Thursday's contest. The Hawkeyes gained confidence last week. They came within four points of beating a good Penn State team on the road after upsetting Wisconsin in overtime.

The Hawkeyes have been playing well despite missing the last four games for Iowa. Tate is averaging 7 points and 6 rebound per game on the year. Last year at Iowa, Tate had a monster game against the Spartans.

Izzo likes what Iowa has done with their starters. He mentioned Matt Gatens, Jeff Peterson, and Jake Kelly as players he and his staff were concerned with. Each of those is averaging around 10 points per game this season.



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